THE WONDER explores perspectives, rituals, and observances of modern, naturalistic, Earth-revering Neopagan religious paths. Naturalistic Pagans embrace the world as understood by science (that is, without gods, magic, or the supernatural), and enhance our lives with myth, ritual and activism. Hosted by Mark Green (author of ATHEOPAGANISM: An Earth-Honoring Path Rooted in Science) and Yucca (formerly of The Pagan Perspective YouTube channel, and of the Magic and Mundane channel). All opinions are those of the speaker, not necessarily those of The Atheopagan Society. Named #3 in the top 20 Pagan podcasts for 2023! https://blog.feedspot.com/pagan_podcasts/
Monday Jun 12, 2023
Monday Jun 12, 2023
Monday Jun 12, 2023
Remember, we welcome comments, questions, and suggested topics at thewonderpodcastQs@gmail.com.
Mark: Welcome back to the Wonders Science-Based Paganism. I'm your host, mark, and I'm Yucca. And today we're talking about the summer solstice, the longest point in the year in the Northern Hemisphere. The longest day, the shortest night, and we're gonna talk about what that is, what we call it, what some of the metaphorical themes are that go along with it, and some ideas for rituals to do for the, for the summer solstice.
Yucca: Right. And it's another one of those that has a lot of names but at least being one of the solstice, we have a name that. That is pretty common that we could refer to it by, and most people know what we're talking about, right? Yeah.
Mark: Yeah. For many, many years, this was referred to in the English speaking world as mid-summer.
Mm-hmm. So that's where you get a mid-summer night's dream, all that kind of stuff. And that's what I prefer to call it because I don't like using the, the foreign language names since I've not.
Yucca: They aren't your languages.
Mark: Yeah. And I'm not drawing cultural elements from those cultures, so why should I take their name?
Yucca: Right? Mm-hmm. Right. So you'd like to call it mid-summer. Are there any, is that any other names? Southern
Mark: Hemisphere, in which case I would call it
Yucca: mid-winter, right? Yes. For us it's usually summer solstice sometimes refer to hafmas. Haf is summer in Welsh, and it's actually a name we made up because the moss is like the, like from the other side of the year, and it's the flip of that.
And so it just kind of sounded nice to us. We're like, oh yes, it's the summer, it's the summer muss, right? Mm-hmm. So we call it that or it's our. First summer, it's not midsummer for our climate. Mm-hmm. You know, that some climates It is. I mean, summer has started, I know in the, on the mirror, the calendar here in the United States, it's the official start of summer.
That's right. Yeah. But. Climate, I mean, weather-wise, summer is here already for us. Mm-hmm. It's just not the middle of summer. The middle of summer won't be until August.
Mark: Right. And, and that's true for us too. I wrote a blog post at atheopagan dot org recently about the fog cycle. Because here in, in the coastal zone in Northern California, what happens is it gets blazing hot inland, like in the Sacramento Valley.
Mm-hmm. And the air rises and therefore creates a low pressure zone. Mm-hmm. Because it's expanded. And so it pulls cool moisture laden air in from over the ocean, which precipitates out into fog along the coastal area. Mm. So we get this fog cycle and it's why San Francisco is famous for fog. We get this fog cycle in the summertime and when the fog cycle starts.
It's really kind of the climatic beginning of summer, and that's been going on now for about three weeks. Mm. Okay. And what'll happen is we'll have these gray days never rains, just gray, overcast, and then eventually, It cools down enough that that thermal cycle doesn't work anymore. Mm-hmm. And we'll get a few days of bright sparkling sun, usually some blazing heat at the end of that, and then it starts the cycle
Okay. So nice.
Mark: That's, that's how we know that summer has started here. Mm.
Yucca: I like that. Well, for us, we have them monsoons. So in the desert southwest, much of the desert, Southwest has the monsoons, and we've been getting them this year, which is wonderful because we've had quite a few years of, of just not getting, just being in terrible, terrible drought.
Mm-hmm. And it's. When I was a kid, the monsoons started earlier, right? They started back in May and they went all the way through September. But now they really are the end of June, July, August is when they'll come and it's we'll get the afternoon rain heavy, rain intense, and then it's gone. But when the rain is coming in, there is.
There's the smell of the rain. Yeah, and it's the soil. I think that what's happening is there's soil microbes that are, that are releasing the smell. There's all sorts of things, but it's just, there's nothing like the smell of the rain. And I've, I've been in different areas, different deserts have their own.
Smell, but there's something similar between them, right? If you're in the Chihuahua or the Mojave, like they have their own and it's just the most wonderful thing. There's just nothing like it. And right after the rain, there's so much life that just wakes up. We have mosses that go dormant and then it rains and they wake up and they're, this fairy green just pops of fairy green everywhere.
And then a few hours later they're back to the brown. And it just, everything wakes up in a way that that is just very different than the rest of the year. So it's just wonderful. And the insects. And one of the really fun things that we love is that after a rain, a day or so after that is when the winged ants will come out.
Oh, so they send out that generation because they need the soft ground to be able to start the next colony, and it's too hard to to dig any other time. So that's when you'll see just these, the conventions, these parties of the wing dance. And you know, some of the termites do that as well. And it's just, Alive with insects and creatures, and it's just a very magical time of year.
Mark: And there's all then the dramatic lightning storms that come with the rain too.
Yucca: That's right. Yeah. And the clouds, the, the incredible, the thunderheads. Yeah. What is it, CU Cumul. Nimbus, is that what it is? Those ones that just go literally miles into the sky and it's amazing. Yeah, no,
Mark: and what I have enjoyed when I've been in the desert Southwest at this time of year is that typically, The rains will break right before sunset.
Yes. So you get these spectacular sunsets, just unbelievable kind of blazing through the remnants of the clouds. Mm-hmm. Really
Yucca: extraordinary. Yeah. And most the sunsets all year round are beautiful, but as we go deeper into summer, the late summer, early fall is when those sunsets are. I don't know why. I don't know quite what's happening.
That's different, but they're the ones where the whole sky is just red and golden and mm-hmm. It's just, and they seem to, to last a little longer. It's, it's quite amazing. Hmm. So enchantment. Yep. So that's what's happening for us. This is a great time of year. Yeah. And it's not too hot yet. Uhhuh, it'll get a, we don't actually get that hot.
Really. We're, we're fine in terms of heat, but you know, we're, we'll be in hanging out in the eighties, so Uhhuh.
Mark: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, most of the warm days that we get are low nineties, but, You know, some, sometimes when the fog cycle really breaks hard, we'll have days that are, well, we had a, a day that last
Yucca: year, you had crazy
Mark: 15 last year.
That was for about a week we had temperatures that were up mm-hmm. Over 110 every day. And that was, that was amazing. Yeah. So, mid-summer. Yeah. And and the summer solstice. What are the kinds of things that we think of thematically that go along with this time of year? I mean, we've, we've talked about what's happening in nature.
Mm-hmm. We still, by the way, our birds still have their mating plumage, which is interesting. It seems a little late to me, but they do, I'm seeing that at our
Yucca: feeders. Ours too, as well. Although ours are always, we're a little later. Than you because you warm up so much sooner than we do. Right. So there's still and I, I feed mine meal worms and I see that they're still gobbling up the meal worms as we get later into the summer.
They'll kind of leave that alone. But I put out like a little bowl for them to, to and so I assume that they're always doing that when they've got the eggs or the real young mm-hmm. The young birds in the nest. So that makes sense. Yeah. Yeah. Wow. Our hummingbirds are mostly gone though. Ah, there's a few that will hang out in the summer, but they mostly were just a stop for them on their larger journey.
Mark: See, we have a number of birds that are actually migratory birds, but they don't migrate where we are because it's so benign. They just like
Yucca: it. They're like, they just
Mark: hang, you know, we have, we have hummingbirds in the middle of the winter, and they're just like, well, if we went anywhere else, it'd be worse than here.
Yucca: So they just hang out. Okay. That's great. Why? I mean, yeah. Speaking of the birds The kiddos and I took a trip just last week down to Carlsbad Caverns, and we woke, we woke up really early in the morning to go watch the bats return. So, the. The park is actually open all night. So we got there at like three 30 or four in the morning instead of watching them leave.
And so the bats were all coming home. But then there are cave swallows that found the caverns just a few decades ago. Apparently they weren't there before, so now they've made it their home. And so you switch, the bats go in, and then the swallows come out. Oh. And so they're also migratory, so they'll go down south, farther south.
Because I mean, from my perspective, Carlsbad is already pretty south, but I'm talking about, you know, down into South America for that. And then they'll come back up from like, April to October. And they're just incredible creatures as they're swooping around. And when they fly next to, it's like, sounds like a, like the sky, like a crackle as they like zip past you.
So that was really fun to get to see them in the like hundreds. So hundreds of bats replaced with hundreds of these swallow.
Mark: Wow. That's cool.
Yucca: Yeah. So just a plug for everyone. If you have not been to the caverns, it's, it's unbelievable. They're really unbelievable. You can hike down but they also have an elevator so you can get down.
So if you are in a wheelchair or have any mobility challenges, like that's really, really accessible. So it's a great experience. Yeah. Now in term we, we were back on, we were on themes though, right? So you often see this wheel of the year as the life cycle of a human right?
Mark: I do. And this time would be full adulthood, like mm-hmm.
In your thirties you know, maybe into your mid forties, kind of at the height of your powers. And. That doesn't entirely square with my understanding of this holiday actually. Mm-hmm. Thematically, because to me this is the holiday of leisure. Mm-hmm. In the agricultural cycle. That's kind of what it is.
At least it was in, in European Times and it, and it is where I am locally, all plant. He did
Yucca: all the planting, but it's not time to harvest's been done.
Mark: Stuff is growing. Not time to harvest yet. So really what you do is lie in a hammock and drink beer or mojitos and just kind of relax. So it's a time for going to the beach and other sort of leisure kinds of activities.
And that's what I most associate with this holiday actually is. Not formal rituals so much as just getting outside and having recreational activities that, that are enjoyable and relaxing.
Yucca: Mm. Okay. That's wonderful.
Mark: How about you? What are, what are the things that you associate with the time of year?
Yucca: Yeah, this is the bugs time of year for us. This is the arthropods are insects and Mya pods and and this is really the, the time of year in our climate where they really are at their. Peak in their height and there's just, oh the wild bees are out and the all kinds of creatures are around.
We have, these ones will get a little bit more active later on in the year, but I adore them. We have Carolina Wolf spiders here. Oh. And which are. Wolf spiders, but they are, you know, several inches across. They're, they're big, they're like the sizes of a small little tarantula. And we like to go out on night hikes, and which you have to, of course be.
Careful to not step on any animals, but the, the spiders are very shy creatures, right? They don't want to come up and mess with you, but when you shine your light around their eyes, glisten like little, it's a Micah, and they look back at you and so there's just a, a celebration of them and how important they are for our world,
they are just so critical. And it's also a time that we do do gifts as well. So we do gifts on both solstice and we're about, when we're recording this, we're about a, you know, a little bit more than a week out. Mm-hmm. So we haven't put it up yet, but we have a bee garland that we do in our house where we've made.
Giant bees out of like a cardboard and some of them have clay and we put it around and decorate the house for the summer. And of course lots of sun motifs as well because there's just so much sun right now. And we put that around the house and, you know, hang little, little trinkets and little gifts.
And so the kids will probably get some books and, and things that are often insect related or. Cousin insect, you know, cuz spiders and centipedes and those things aren't insects, but they're close cousins. Right. So. Right. Yeah.
Mark: Well that sounds really fun and wonderfully seasonal. Yeah. The, the sun symbols are obviously a big part of, you know, what I do with my focus, for example, and my altar has lots of sun symbols on it generally, but it gets a lot more sun symbols on it at this time of year.
Yeah. It's really, you know, the rain of the, the sun triumphant at this time of year. This, one of my, one of my least favorite summer solstice traditions is that right around this time of year is when I sunburned my scalp and then realized that it's half season. I need to, I need to not do this. Mm-hmm. You know, it's not February anymore. The sun is not weak. The sun is as about as overhead as it's gonna get, and it's strong. And I need to protect myself from Yes. So that's another thing that happens every year. Mm.
Yucca: I enjoy hats. I have some great huge, broad roomed hats. My, my climate is a hat all the time.
Climate. Hmm. Because even in the winter it's very, very, very high elevation. But it's cold enough that you need to have a knit hat in the cold half of the year. And then it's just so, there's just so much sun that you've just gotta have something to. Or else you can't see to protect your, your face and neck and, and all of that.
Mark: not elevation. There's so much uv. You really gotta be careful.
Yucca: Yeah. Well, you know, when you go to the weather page and it'll tell you the, what's the pollen count and the wind, you know, our UV index is almost always 10 all the time. You just don't even look at it. It's 10. Well, So yeah, you can't leave a, the, you know, a tarp won't last a season out there, Uhhuh, the UV just eats it and it turns into those terrible million little pieces of plastic everywhere, so.
Well, are there any rituals that you do either for yourself or with your community around this time of year?
Mark: Well, as I said, most of what I want to do with my community at this time of year is to really just kind of hang and. Enjoy one another's company. But there is one ritual that I do every year, which involves my son broom.
Mm-hmm. And longtime listeners will have heard me talk about this before. I have a handle, which is a piece of Oak Branch that I gathered in a state park. And on that I have bound long grasses to make a shaggy sort of broom. And I add grasses to it every year. In, in some years, I actually fully replace the grasses.
Mm-hmm. I can find enough long grass to cut wherever I am and use that to, to replace the, the, the bristles. And I bind that all up and then I sit it out in the mid-summer sun all day on the day of the solstice. Mm-hmm. And the idea of that is that it's soaking up the, you know, the power of the sun.
Mm-hmm. And so long about February, I can wave that thing around the house when it's really dismal and sort of remind myself of the feeling of the sun and the, the energy and the, the warmth and light and all those things that I'm missing in
Yucca: February. That's great.
Mark: Yeah. It's, it's a nice ritual tool to have.
You know, there have been times when, like, I've been working with people that have been really feeling down you know, having a really hard time in their life right then and kind of waving a lot of sun around them, it seems to make them feel better. Nice,
Yucca: nice. Yeah. And are the grasses still green for you?
No. You have, okay, so you're, you're harvesting. Dry grass then. Yeah, it's
Mark: generally wild oats. Mm-hmm. They grow very tall and so, you know, you can cut 'em off and make a nice long broom. This, this marks. Really mayday kind of marks the demarcation between the gold time of the year and the green time of the year.
Mm-hmm. That's what I was remembering. Yeah. Yeah. Things are, are starting to gold up and we've had a few little sprinklings of rain, so there's some remnants of green. Unusually so this year especially because we had this giant rain year, right. Last winter. But by and large, the hills have gone golden by this time.
Mm-hmm. And so that's the golden time
Yucca: of the year. Yeah. I, I really just en enjoy how flipped our climates are because this is one of the only times of year that the grass is green. It's gold most of the year, but right now we've got this pop of green and it's just so, it's just beautiful how.
Places are so different, right? We're, yeah, we're experiencing, I mean, we're sharing some experiences together because we're going, you know, what's happening astronomically? You know, that's, we're all experiencing that, but what spring is for you and what spring is for me, we're just in these very different worlds, and yet coming together and sharing in an online space and then going back to our.
You know, might as well be different planets sometimes.
Mark: Yeah. Well, and of course, I mean, we, I, I just had our Saturday Zoom mixer that we do every Saturday mm-hmm. This morning. And a woman from Argentina was there. Mm-hmm. And of course she's in an entirely different world. Right. You know, it's like it's cold and it's wet and it's dark and you know, all those.
Yeah. All those things that we associate with December up here are what's happening for her right now, so. Mm-hmm. Yeah.
Yucca: And that as a country has so many different environments. Yeah.
Mark: Well, yeah, cuz it's so north south and it's got the Andes, which are so high
Yucca: and Right. It's that it's stretched down. It goes, you know, and then you can be in that low, low desert or that high or the, you know, it's, I'm looking at, on the map right now.
Mark: Patagonia, which is this arctic kind of environment. Yeah. It's, mm-hmm. It's everything. I'd love to go
Yucca: where there are still folks who speak Welsh. Really? Yes, there is a Welsh community there. And so you can, you'll find people with last names of like Evans and, and things like that. Yeah. So it's, they're the, like the Welsh like cowboys in Patagonia.
It's, it's, it's a, it's, it's a great country. It's an amazing, we live in just a wonderful world, just so many different places and, and little gems and, yeah.
Mark: Yeah. So, yep. Well, that's kind of part of what we're all about, isn't it? We live in a wonderful world. Me too. It's It's just really cool when you pay attention to it.
Yucca: Yeah. I like having the holidays as these touchstones throughout the year. Mm-hmm. Right. Just to kind of come back and think about, you know, what was last year around Solstice and the year before and, and how it's so similar and yet so different this time around. Mm-hmm.
Mark: Well, I think I conjecture that that's why the The, the symbol of the spiral was very attractive to prehistoric people.
You know, the, the creators of the megalithic passage, burials and all that kind of stuff, because time really is like a spring, you know, you come around to the same point again, but you're, you're removed from it by a year. Mm-hmm. So it just kind of iterates around and around and around. Yeah. Always in a different place and yet in the same place at the same time.
So what was I gonna do? I know what I was gonna do. I was gonna close with a poem for the season. Ooh, let me
Yucca: grab Sure.
Mark: This is called Dawn Prayer,
whose warm love flows across the land each day stirring life, the world's magic arms yearning up, turning each green leaf to follow whose generous balm upon the skin is love's touch. Ah, heated fingers, soothing. Whose Roar boils water from ocean to sky, drawing sweet from salt, becoming rain, snow river lake whose fervor beat upon us is deadly and yet contemplating cold stars.
How we miss it? The golden one. Quotidian center of our days Steady companion soer of treasures. Great and small light bringer life. Quickener, dazzling unbearably bright. Hail. Oh, hail the magnificent sun.
Yucca: Thank you.
Mark: Hmm. My pleasure. I'm awfully fond of that star. I I would be really bereft without it.
Yucca: Yes. Do you? And all of us. Yeah. So, well, this was a great talk and thank you.
Mark: Sure. Yeah. Everyone have a wonderful mid-summer and or winter or mid-winter. Mm-hmm. And if you come up with cool ideas for rituals for this time of year, shoot us an email at the wonder podcast cues gmail.com.
Let us know what you're doing. We're always interested to hear from our listeners. So thanks so much for listening.